Fred Grimm

Fred Grimm: While fighting gay marriage, Florida embraces killers’ wedded bliss

It was like serendipity. At least for those who champion traditional family values. Both Pam Bondi and Charles Manson, on the very same day, embraced the sanctity of old-fashioned marriage.

On Monday, the attorney general’s office asked Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal to overrule two state circuit court decisions that have declared Florida's ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. Bondi argued that Florida had “virtually exclusive authority to define and regulate marriage,” which included a “traditional definition of marriage.”

Bondi’s appeal came a few hours after news broke that Charlie Manson himself was giving a boost to the concept of traditional, opposite-sex marriage. Reporters discovered that a marriage license had been issued in Santa Barbara, California, for the 80-year-old Manson and his intended, Afton Elaine Burton, 26, who likes to be called Star.

It doesn’t matter that Manson has been incarcerated for 43 years. Or that he had been the leader of a murderous cult and had orchestrated at least seven murders, and likely more. Manson’s right to a traditional marriage remains intact in California, just as it would if he was locked up in Florida.

Florida can’t abide gay marriage but inmate marriages, as long as the nuptials are between a man and a woman, are embedded in state statute. There are limits, of course. Rule 33-503.002 of the Florida Administrative Code requires that if either the bride or the groom is under 18, he or she must first obtain permission from a parent or guardian.

Serial killer Ted Bundy famously popped the question in an Orlando courtroom in 1980 during one of his murder trials. The wily Bundy called his fiancée, Carole Boone, to the witness stand: “Carole, do you want to marry me.” Thanks to a quirk in Florida law, that was that. They were officially married. Later in their wedding day, the jury recommended a death sentence.

Bundy, who committed at least 30 murders, was only one of a string of infamous Florida killers allowed to do what a gay man or a lesbian can’t.

Oscar Ray Bolin, Jr., who was convicted of murdering three Tampa-area women 28 years ago, married Rosalie Martinez in 1996 by a telephone hook-up from Death Row. (Bolin’s first wife, who told police she had seen her husband disposing of his victims’ bodies, had died of cancer.) A TV camera crew from the ABC news magazine 20/20 recorded the happy bride’s side of the ceremony from her apartment in Gainesville.

In 1994, Wanda Eads married Death-Row inmate Frank Valdez. The Associated Press reported that the couple exchanged vows through a Plexiglass barrier, topped by razor wire.

“I wed thee forever,” said Frank.

“For our love is founded on Christ Jesus,” Wanda said.

“And it knows no bounds,” Frank answered, apparently missing the irony as the couple exchanged rings through a small hole in the partition.

Unhappily, in 1999 guards extracted Valdez from his cell and beat him to death. But that hardly discouraged Death-Row nuptials. In 2002, Reuters reported that 10 women had married Death-Row inmates in the previous five years. Talk about a group of Floridians who embrace traditional marriage.

Troy Victorino had led the gang that killed six people and a dog in the 2004 “Xbox murders” in Deltona. The victims were clubbed to death because one of them had refused to return Victorino’s video game player. But the brutality of the murders didn’t keep him from getting hitched while on Death Row in 2009.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported that his new bride quickly fired off a letter to Victorino’s lawyer, urging him to get busy with the appeals. “You are not just affecting Troy’s life,” Cheyenne Victorino wrote. “You are affecting our entire family.”

Troy and Cheyenne. Man and wife. Family values. That’s what traditional marriage is all about. And preserving those family values is exactly why our attorney general persists in her defense of the ban on gay marriage, though a number of governors and attorneys general, some from very conservative states — Idaho, Wyoming, Missouri, Indiana, among others — have dropped their appeals in similar cases.

Bondi continues to defend the ban because, according to court documents, “Florida’s marriage laws have a close, direct, and rational relationship to society’s legitimate interest in increasing the likelihood that children will be born to and raised by the mothers and fathers who produced them in stable and enduring family units.”

That argument might seem to falter a bit when it comes to killer grooms, given that society also has a legitimate interest in keeping the likes of Troy Victorino and Oscar Ray Bolin, Jr., on Death Row and out of familial situations, married or not.

However, the ever resourceful Ted Bundy did manage to impregnate his bride at the outdoor visitors park at the Florida State Prison in Starke. “Where the human element is involved, anything is possible,” the prison superintendent told The Associated Press. “They’re subject to do anything.”

Well, at least the married couple messing around in the visitors park wasn’t gay. Thank goodness for that.

His daughter was 8 when Bundy was executed. I suppose it was a “stable and enduring family unit” — while it lasted.